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(This is the sixth post in the series called I Don’t Understand You! – Learning How to Connect with Your Child When They Think Differently than You. If you haven’t read the first post already, you’ll want to start there.)

All of our kids are unique individuals.  God has put I Don't Understand Youthem all here for different reasons.  They will all accomplish different things with their unique gifts and abilities.  Sometimes, when your child is wired in a completely different way than you are, however, it can be frustrating to figure out how to connect with them.  

Kathy Koch has written a wonderful book called How Am I Smart? which helps parents to understand what our child is thinking and why they are acting the way they are.  The more we understand our kids, the better chance we will have for building close relationships with them and enjoying spending time with them as well.  This post will cover kids who Kathy describes as being body smart.

Body smart kids are also known as kinesthetic learners.  They think with movement and touch. Motion is very important to them because they learn with their entire bodies. Many of these kids struggle with traditional school subjects which require them to sit still and listen for long periods of time. They also may have a hard time telling you how school is going for them because it isn’t stimulating them in the ways that they learn best.

Body smart kids are usually characterized by several of the following:

  • Use their hands to “talk”
  • Hands are often busy building, touching or twisting hair
  • Feet are busy tapping, shifting in place or walking
  • Pacing soothes them and helps them to think more clearly
  • Some have good gross motor skills and enjoy physical pursuits such as hiking, sports, dancing, and acting.
  • Some have good fine motor skills and enjoy such things as carpentry, model building or typing.
  • Learn more by doing than by reading or listening
  • Work well with their hands. They may be good at repairing things, sculpting, art, or working with various tools.
  • Often well coordinated and have a strong sense of timing and body movement.

If your child has several of the above characteristics then they are probably body smart.  Many children who are diagnosed with ADHD may just be body smart.  We need to be sure we aren’t medicating these children in such a way that they lose the channel through which God wants them to experience life. We need to be sure we’re teaching our kids in a way that is best for our child and not just what is easiest for us.

Body smart kids enjoy wrestling; but, they can struggle to know when to stop before things get out of hand.  They may also make the bad decision to punch, kick, or bite other children.  These kids often feel like they don’t fit in at school or church.  They can end up feeling hopeless when adults demand that they sit still and listen.

Here are some practical ways for connecting with your body smart child:

  • Allow them to move – Movement is a need for these kids.  Expecting them to sit still or keep their hands still for long stretches isn’t fair or realistic.  They will have aBoy jumping out of a swing hard time concentrating if there isn’t any external stimulation or movement.  Provide frequent stretch breaks for these kids!
  • Sports are good – These kids do well with team sports. They also enjoy watching sporting events. Watch your child participate as well as watching team events with your child. Practice with them in the backyard.
  • Hands-on projects – Be sure to work on projects with these kids.  Working with them in the shop, on home repair, on car repair, on plumbing or electrical projects, etc. is a great way to express interest in them.
  • Use touch praise – Since moving and touch are so important to body smart kids you should physically show them affection whenever possible.  Moms can pat them on the back or tousle their hair.  Dads should wrestle with these kids and do fist bumps.
  • Useful tools – While doing math, these kids benefit from using tools such as an abacus, manipulatives, or a number line.  Give them globes and maps when studying geography.
  • Reaching them spiritually – Because these kids learn by doing, they usually appreciate this same approach in spiritual matters. Participating in things such as communion, baptism, financial giving, missions trips, serving in the church, and communion meals will hold a high place in these kids’ hearts.

Body smart kids end up being great chiropractors, dentists, hair dressers, mechanics, gym teachers, welders, personal trainers, stunt people, actors, coaches, and professional athletes.

Be sure to view your child’s energy and need for action as positive.  If your child gets down on himself because of the way he is wired, remind him that talented athletes such as Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky are kinesthetic learners.

Here are some great methods for teaching these kids:

  • Build movement into their lessons.  The more you allow them to get up and move the more they will learn.
  • Have them march while practicing their spelling words.
  • Let them practice their spelling words by using skywriting, writing them in the driveway with chalk, or writing them in large letters on a whiteboard.
  • Buy them a clipboard so they can go outside, sprawl on the floor while kicking their legs, sit in a rocking chair, or study while doing chores.
  • Allow them to learn through drama and role playing.
  • Consider using manipulatives with these kids no matter what their age.
  • While having to remain still, provide objects such as Koosh balls to give them something to do with their hands.
  • While listening to their lessons, have them take notes so that at least their hands are moving.  This will help them to pay better attention.
  • When they do take notes, allow them to draw pictures, diagrams, or doodle.
  • Let these kids do hands-on activities such as building models, messy science experiments, field trips, and whatever other projects you can think up which fall into their areas of interest.
  • Have them act out a story they have read or prepare a video presentation of what they have learned.

We use many of these teaching techniques for younger children; however, as kids get older we often stop.  When we have a body smart child is important that we continue allowing them to use their whole body to learn. For more tips for helping you to understand your Body Smart Child, please check out Kathy Koch’s book, How Am I Smart?

Carol Barnier, author of several wonderful books such as How to Get Your Child Off of the Refrigerator and On to Learning and The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles also has some amazing advice in this area as well as specific teaching techniques for kinesthetic learners. You may want to check out her books as well!

Question:  Do you have a Body Smart Child? Have you found any other clever ways to connect with your child? What has your experience been like when dealing with a child who thinks differently than you? Please leave a comment below.